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Action Learning Circles for

Paul Wildman Prosperity Press The Kalgrove Institute

~~ Biochar – learning circles for a future Nature can live with ~~ 1


~ Biochar – learning circles for a future Nature can live with ~

Paul Wildman

Because learning can be fun

paul@kalgrove.com

Kids and Adults Learning because learning can be fun http://www.kalgrove.com/adultlearning /

www.kalgrove.com/adultlearning/

Prosperity Press

Paul Taylor

Transforming Agriculture & Environment potaylor@bigpond.com http://Biocharbooks.com/The_Biochar_Revolution

Dolph Cooke

The planet is our canvas

dolph@Biocharproject.org (Y)our BIO CHAR Project‌.

http://Biocharproject.org/

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Endorsements Biochar Association of the Northern Rivers (BANR)

Wayne Wadsworth hellowadzy@gmail.com

http://sites.google.com/site/reversinggreenhouse/

Mark Brophy

http://studycircles.net.au/ mark.brophy@studycircles.net.au (endorsed)

Millennium Project ~ Global Futures Studies & Research: Australasian Node PO 73 Northgate Brisbane 4013 www.StateOfTheFuture.org (endorsed)

Iona Miller Endorsed by the Guild http://thebushy.wordpress.com/ http://www.kalgrove.com/adultlearning/

Paul Wildman paul@kalgrove.com Q1:2011. A5 V23 01-04-2011 7000words: 35pgs

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Publication details Wildman, P. (2011). Biochar Action Learning Circles: toward a future Nature can live with. Action Learning Circles based on Paul Taylor’s book The Biochar Revolution (2010). Brisbane: The Kalgrove Institute. with Topic Guides - 40pgs. Published by: The Kalgrove Institute in conjunction with The Biochar Revolution This the Biochar Action Learning Circle is endorsed by Adult Learning Australia's Learning Circle Program Contact details: Prosperity Press c/- Kalgrove Institute PO Box 73, Northgate, Qld Australia 4013 Tel: 0412027818 E: Paul Wildman paul@kalgrove.com The Biochar Revolution Inc. PO Box , Uki, Qld, Australia Tel: +61 2 66795259 E: Paul Taylor potaylor@bigpond.com Cataloguing-in-Publication: Wildman, Paul, 1949- ... Biochar Action Learning Circles Bibliography: ISBN 978-1-875603-12-1 Wildman, P. (2011). Biochar Action Learning Circles: toward a future Nature can live with. Action Learning Circles based on Paul Taylor’s The Biochar Revolution book (2010). P. Wildman. Brisbane: The Kalgrove Institute. with Topic Guides 40pgs. Key words: 1. Biochar. 2. Community development - Biochar aspects. 3. Biochar development - sustainability 4. Community development - study and teaching. 5 Learning Circles.

Copyright: © 2011 Kalgrove Institute Individual or multiple copying and use of these materials for study, running learning circles or project planning is encouraged, however please respect the authors' intellectual property and acknowledge this publication when using or quoting it. Such

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acknowledgement should be written on each section of the material used. Also please inform one of the authors or the publisher when using parts of this document, as well as noting the quoted material. Please direct any feedback you may have to either of the authors or the publisher. Disclaimer: The learning materials contained within and forming part of this publication are offered to the public and to individual facilitators in good faith. This in no way constitutes an acceptance of responsibility for the ultimate use to which this material may be put, or to any acts or omissions arising from its use in the hands of a third party. Acknowledgments: Development of this Action Learning Circle was assisted by Dr Mark Brophy mark.brophy@studycircles.net.au of the Australian the Network, and editorial comment and assistance is acknowledged from Dr Paul Taylor. Our acknowledgement goes to all those involved in the consultation and piloting phase of this project in Northern Rivers of New South Wales. This Learning Guide draws from the following document and from experience, gained in its compilation and implementation. Helen Schwencke’s role in this regard, esp. with the pedagogical aspects of the 2003 project, is gratefully acknowledged. See Wildman and Schwencke (2003). No work of this nature can be produced without the work of many predecessors over time. Where the ideas and writings of such people were able to be identified it has been acknowledged and referenced, however, this was not always possible as ideas get built upon and original authorship may become obscure. If you are one of these people, please accept my appreciation and thanks for the role you’ve played in making this present work possible. If, inadvertently, I have used material you believe can be directly attributed to you, please let me know and I will rectify the situation immediately. Further and particular thanks go to my wife Annette Cunado-Wildman for her editorial skills.

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Contents Publication details ............................................................................ 4 Copyright: ........................................................................................ 4 Disclaimer: ....................................................................................... 5 Acknowledgments: .......................................................................... 5 [1] Introduction: Is this action learning circle for you? .................................... 9 Why Learning Circles? ............................................................................ 9 Scope and Objectives of this action learning circle kit........................... 10 Getting started ........................................................................................ 11 Using your Book as a resource .............................................................. 12 How each topic is organised .................................................................. 12 The topic guide .................................................................................. 13 [2] The Biochar action learning circle topics ............................................. 14 Do you want to understand Biochar: What is it, where does it come from and where it is going? See the Topic: Understanding Biochar – Black is the New Green ....................................................................................... 14 Do you want to unlock what happens when you make Biochar? See the Topic: Unlocking the potential of Biochar ............................................. 14 Do you want to have a go at building your own Biochar Kiln (retort)? See the Topic: DIY Biochar Kiln/Retort ................................................. 14 Do you want to understand Biochar as a part of a community socioeconomic system? See the Topic: Understanding Community Biochar Development .......................................................................................... 14 Do you want to find out how to start to see Biochar as a right livelihood generator? See the topic: DIY Biochar Right Livelihood Enterprise ...... 15 EcoChar - Do you want to understand Biochar as a crucial part of the ecosystem leading to sustainable development in order to ‘change the 6


world’? See the topic: EcoChar –changing our world through the sustainable use of Biochar ..................................................................... 15 How can Biochar contribute to medium and large scale farming practices in Australia? See the topic: Biochar - Improving Australian farming practices ................................................................................................ 15 [3] About Biochar? .................................................................................... 15 What are the benefits of Biochar? .......................................................... 16 How is Biochar made? ........................................................................... 17 How does Biochar help with climate change? ....................................... 17 Biochar - community ............................................................................. 17 Linking to Global Futures ...................................................................... 18 The Millennium Project & a Biochar action in Northern Rivers .... 18 [4] About action learning ........................................................................... 19 [5] About learning circles .......................................................................... 21 What is a learning circle? ....................................................................... 21 Organising a learning circle ................................................................... 22 Facilitating learning circles .................................................................... 22 Participating in a learning circle ............................................................ 24 Scheduling your learning circle topics and meetings ............................. 25 Conducting learning circle meetings ...................................................... 25 Expressing the outcomes from your action learning circle ..................... 25 [6] Where to from here? ............................................................................. 27 Choose your topic .................................................................................. 27 Use the action learning outcomes from your learning circle in your and your community’s everyday life ............................................................ 29 Engage other Biochar institutions with your action learning circle ........ 30 7


[7] (Y)our Biochar: action learning circle 3-way evaluation ...................... 31 [1] Peer evaluation: ........................................................................ 31 [2] Your learning circles evaluation: .............................................. 31 [3] Your evaluation of your learning circle: ................................... 31 [8] References and further reading ............................................................. 33 Web sites (accessed Q1 2011)............................................................ 33 Text .................................................................................................... 33

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[1] Introduction: Is this action learning circle for you? Why Learning Circles? Today globalisation is having an impact on every community in Australia and around the World, especially those involved in rural and manufacturing areas. These learning circle topics are about helping to address some of its negative and enhancing its positive environmental effects. If you are interested in engaging with these issues in your community, then you will be interested in exploring this kit further. In this series we seek a third path in inquiry, one between education (thinking – higher education and Uni’s) and training (doing – vocational training, TAFE’s, where competence is defined by behaviour in isolated activities). The third path between education-thinking and training-doing is learningintegrating thinking and doing that is action learning. Further this third path is one of equality and peer respect and the best way I have found for expressing this is in what are called Learning or Study Circles. In this booklet we extend this to Action Learning Circles – Doing Thinking in a Group of colleagues. Study or Learning Circles have been around overseas for years, but not in Australia. They are a method of adult and community education and as such a part of lifelong learning. They continue to be the ‘new black’ in Europe esp. the Scandinavian countries – where you see them continued into Folk Colleges and being recognised by Government as a vital part of civic society. Technically this is called ‘associationalism’ that is folks with a common affinity ‘associate’ in a learning circle and study and act on their chosen topic or area of interest. There are heaps of other Adult and Community Education (ACE) options too, from book clubs to formal TAFE courses. Learning Circles, a method of Adult Learning, don’t suit everyone - well we believe they can suit nearly everyone! Other options are lectures, workshops, book clubs, seminars (where we still have an expert and a learning hierarchy), study tours, play, formal TAFE courses etc. With study tours possibly insufficient attention is directed to the content of what is being ‘toured’, and with play where possibly 9


insufficient attention is given to structure and narrative, though each has its place. On balance we believe that ‘learning circles’ represent the best way forward for Biochar. In Australia Learning/Study Circles are relatively unknown. So, with your help, we are trying to change all that…. Scope and Objectives of this action learning circle kit The scope of this project is ‘to use study circle method to encourage integrated efforts from key stakeholders in Northern NSW rural communities to develop expertise , skills and knowledge required to drive regional Biochar capacity, capabilities and application, and thereby achieve carbon sequestration (removal) from the atmosphere towards a more healthy environment for all’. The objectives of the Biochar: Action Learning Circles kit, are to: • Explain the meaning of Biochar, Action Learning and Learning Circles •

Introduce the underpinning concepts of Biochar, its production and use, in actions that are environmentally sensitive and considerate of social outcomes

Design, plan, develop, construct and trial a Biochar Kiln/Retort and test results

Field trial the application of Biochar and evaluate its results Empower people within their communities to develop a local ‘char market’ and even a ‘carbon credit’ system embedded in a local currency

Allow you, and your learning circle partners, to undertake practical actions, public debate and general discussion in relation to Biochar development with its local employment and learning opportunities

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Develop opportunities for Biochar action within the current circumstances and aspirations of communities in relation to responding to the challenges of globalisation and climate change in ways that enhances local opportunities for work and learning

Encourage local Biochar actions to be taken in association with learning circle activities

Record this in your Action Learning Journal

Share the bliss with family and friends via. email, blogs and our social networking opportunities

Assist you to understand about the learning process and how this can help you and the other learning circle members Through the Learning Circle process the following outcomes will emerge:

Actual ability to make Biochar

A greater understanding of the local Biochar system

An enhancement of your Biochar independence through long-term viable employment, income and wealth creation

A greater scope for engaging with political representatives

An increase in self-reliance and resilience within communities

Improvements in the environmental sensitivity of development.

Getting started You and your learning circle can choose to start at any topic. Each topic is a discrete process in and of itself. You can also choose to do as many or as few topics as are appropriate to your needs. You will find all of the 11


Topic Guides, Background Information, Evaluation Form, Learning and Actions and other resources associated with this kit explained in this manual. If you want to identify a starting point, straight away, please read through the topic descriptions in this introduction titled: The action learning circle topics Section 2, or look through the questions listed in Section 6 - ‘Where to from Here?’ Using your Book as a resource Your copy of The Biochar Revolution allows you to deepen and broaden your engagement with Biochar. On page (vi) just before your book’s contents you will see the term ‘Free Bonuses’ on this page towards the bottom there is a six digit code. This code, when entered on the website www.TheBiocharRevolution.com , gives you access to information, contacts and research on Biochar. Using this kit The Resources and benefits in this kit includes: (1) This booklet, (2) The topic guides, (3) Reference Book ‘The Biochar Revolution’ by Paul Taylor (2010), (4) Access to the Biochar website www.theBiocharrevolution.com including updates and Biochar current affairs, (5) Networking with Paul Taylor, myself and other Biochar Students and, (6) Access to social media and other web resources on Biochar. The format for topics comprising this Action Learning Circle kit is similar. On the whole the perspectives and information gathered in one topic will usefully inform your understanding of and progress through the other topics How each topic is organised Due to the amount, and depth, of information that is available and helpful for developing an understanding of Biochar Development and its application for yourself, and your community. And to make the topics available to as wide a range of users as possible, the information has been organised into three areas. Further, an outcome evaluation form for the learning circle’s discussions and outcomes is provided. Thus each topic’s format includes a: 12


• Topic Guide short topic pointers that provide the questions and information sources for learning circle and individual discussion, including activities for the Action Learning process, • Background Info on the Topic from particular chapters in the Biochar Revolution Taylor (2010) that supports your Learning Circle with more in-depth information, and a, • Topic Task and Outcome Evaluation Record i.e. the action learning circle task with record of outcomes, learning and actions (in word-processing format) that offer a way to record your discussion, learning insights and the outcomes of each activity. Each of these is further explained below. The topic guide Each Topic Guide has a similar format, that is: 1. ‘Keep your learning circle in mind’ – learning can be individual and it can also be group that is in your circle so part of your learning in these topics includes your sharing and challenging and questioning the topic with your fellow circle members 2.

‘Learning objective’ define the purpose of each specific topic

3. ‘Topic guide’ explains how much time on average this topic will take to complete 4. ‘Background info on the topic’ provides the chapters and websites etc. for you to gain an understanding of the topic area 5. ‘Topic task and outcome record’ the Record of Outcomes, Learning and Actions for each topic contains a table for doing this. 6. ‘Where to from Here?’ or ‘What next?’, to decide the next for you and your circle 7. ‘Evaluation’ assists you to evaluate the topic, your circle, and facilitation, thereby to evaluate your progress and that of your learning circle. 13


[2] The Biochar action learning circle topics Dear Participant: Through this Action Learning Program you will be exploring the following topics. These topics have been selected as they are those that commonly present themselves at Biochar workshops. If you have another topic in mind please let your facilitator know and together you will be able to develop your own topic. Do you want to understand Biochar: What is it, where does it come from and where it is going? See the Topic: Understanding Biochar – Black is the New Green In this topic we look at what makes Biochar well… Biochar. How long has it been around and why all the fuss about it today? Do you want to unlock what happens when you make Biochar? See the Topic: Unlocking the potential of Biochar This topic will guide you through a process involving ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘where’, of Biochar production. Do you want to have a go at building your own Biochar Kiln (retort)? See the Topic: DIY Biochar Kiln/Retort This topic concentrates on the nuts and bolts of developing Biochar action. It starts with you, and moves on to designing, building, operating and evaluating a DIY or more aptly DIO (Do-It-Ourselves) Biochar Kiln. Do you want to understand Biochar as a part of a community socioeconomic system? See the Topic: Understanding Community Biochar Development Do you want to consider the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of your involvement with Biochar in terms of developing your community and its economy? This topic will help you to develop an understanding of some of the theoretical background to the Community Biochar Development approach and how it applies to your own perspective.

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Do you want to find out how to start to see Biochar as a right livelihood generator? See the topic: DIY Biochar Right Livelihood Enterprise This topic helps you explore your potential role as an individual, and community, entrepreneur. In doing so, you can help yourself and your community to be ready, willing and able to undertake your own Biochar income generation? EcoChar - Do you want to understand Biochar as a crucial part of the ecosystem leading to sustainable development in order to ‘change the world’? See the topic: EcoChar –changing our world through the sustainable use of Biochar This topic leads you to identify sustainability issues and assess possible actions to understand Biochar as part of an overall healthy ecosystem. It also provides an introduction to the key aspects of Biochar, social and environmental sustainability dimensions of sustainability. How can Biochar contribute to medium and large scale farming practices in Australia? See the topic: Biochar - Improving Australian farming practices This topic explores the medium to large scale issues involved with the agricultural use of Biochar and its integration into improving farm efficacy. For further guidance with your starting point see the Navigation Questions in the ‘Where to from here’ section of this booklet.

[3] About Biochar? Biochar is charcoal produced by heating organic material at a high temperature in limited oxygen. 1It is a stable product, very rich in carbon, which is used to lock carbon into the soil. Anyone can make charcoal—just burn some wood—but at high temperatures you get a more pure product with additional beneficial qualities. 1

Source: This section ‘About Biochar’ - CharMaster Dolph Cooke http://Biocharproject.org/ used with permission.

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Of these positive properties, the one we are focussing on is its ability to rejuvenate the planet and its soil. Biochar has been described as: the single most important initiative for humanity’s environmental future … it allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis, and the climate problem, all in an immensely practical manner.

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Source: This section ‘About Biochar’ CharMaster Dolph Cooke http://Biocharproject.org/ used with permission.

Prof Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year 2007.

What are the benefits of Biochar? Incorporating Biochar into the soil has been shown to bring about many beneficial and long-term positive effects on soil. It can:        

Increase the water holding capacity of the soil Increase crop production Increase soil carbon levels Increase soil pH Positively change the microbiology of the soil Decrease soil emissions of the greenhouse gases CO 2, N2O and CH4 Improve soil conditions for earthworm populations Improve fertiliser use efficiency

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The effects of Biochar will vary with soil type and the qualities of the Biochar used. Studies so far have shown that the greatest positive effects of Biochar applications have been in highly degraded, acidic or nutrient-depleted soils. In Australia, both the CSIRO and NSW Department of Primary Industry are conducting field trials on Biochar. How is Biochar made? Biochar can be produced from any organic material such as household green waste, paper waste or agricultural waste. It is made in a specially constructed retort that heats the organic material in the absence of oxygen at temperatures above 430°C. The process, called pyrolysis, efficiently decomposes the biomass, producing the Biochar solid, volatile gases and bio-oils. The gases and bio-oil can be used to generate heat or electricity or transport or fuel. The Biochar process is carbon negative when the Biochar is incorporated into the soil. How does Biochar help with climate change? Burning trees and agricultural waste contributes a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere, and is a significant factor in global warming. The production and use of Biochar breaks into the CO2 cycle, drawing carbon from the atmosphere to hold it in the soil. Biochar - community To counterbalance globalisation and our lack of control, influence and understanding of our local community, communities need to be empowered. This Learning Circle seeks to address this need by offering a way to understand and act that develops people’s local economies in a sustainable manner and, thereby, provides for themselves and their children as well as assisting other communities do the same. Biochar - policy Biochar fits alongside other tools and instruments for sustainability, particularly NGO initiatives such as Biochar trust and or Carbon Sequestration 17


NGO’s as well as State based Biochar policy areas such as taxation, investment, regional development, public infrastructure such as transport and communication, and training. So Biochar is only ‘part’ of ‘the answer’ not the ‘whole’ answer. For urban communities hard hit by ‘downsizing’, or, rural and developing communities impacted by ‘free trade’, or intentional communities and eco-villages seeking to design-in, rather than retro-fit existing communities, sustainable community economy, we believe that Biochar can make big difference for the people involved and their children. Further we hope that this Action Learning Circle Kit can help make this difference. Linking to Global Futures The Millennium Project & a Biochar action in Northern Rivers In late 2009 a small group of five folk came together to explore how Global Futures and a Local Action for environmental sustainability could be linked. On this basis we formed BANR (Biochar Association of the Northern Rivers NSW Australia) was formed in Eastern Australia (SE QLD/Northern NSW) with the intent of exploring ways of actioning the Global Challenges of the Millennium Project in a way that embraced Adult and Action Leaning. Initially, in early 2010 we reviewed the 15 GC’s and chose No1: Sustainable Development as the challenge most likely!! (For us, that is.) Firstly we recognised GHG (Green House Gas) emission was strongly identified as a critical component of GC15: Sustainable Development. Glenn and Gordon (2010:12-13) see also www.StateOfTheFuture.org . Secondly we then brainstormed GHG and our collective interest and through the link to Carbon Sequestration we ended up with Biochar as our destination. Finally the group sought to develop a project around Biochar and action this as an exemplar project, which would be part of the MP’s. The key focus would be on GHG (Green House Gasses and the need for carbon sequestration) Glenn and Gordon (2010) and as part of the Millennium Projects global research effort Glenn (2007).

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From this was born the Millennium Project Biochar Action Learning Circles Project which is due to be launched in Eastern Australia in April 2011. The project kit includes contributions from the whole group: a book by Paul Taylor on Biochar (2010), action learning circles based thereon by Paul Wildman (2011), Biochar project property Dolph Cooke (2011) with planned Biochar camps, DVD on Biochar kiln making by the late Geoff Moxam [Moxam and Davis (2010)] through the Science Art Research Centre, GHG reversing NGO Wayne Wadsworth (2010) with endorsement from, among others, the Millennium Project Australian Node (Anita Kelleher). Here the educational components are: Futures (the MP and our own research praxis); Participatory Action Research (the ALC’s – Action Learning Circles) and; Change Agency (Change Agency - the workshops, seminars, and learning circles). This initiative is endorsed by the MP (Millennium Project), BANR (Biochar Association of Northern Rivers), SCA (Study Circles Australia), and ABMG (Australian Bush Mechanics Guild). A pilot test launch has occurred 18-02-2011, with positive results, and a pilot launch is planned late in February and a full scale launch in early-April 2011. It is intended to include the 2010 MP report as part of this formal launch. Perceive newly, think globally, act locally and respond personally.

[4] About action learning Action learning draws from theories on adult learning and seeks to build on a person's experience of the world through concrete actions, reflecting on the effect of the actions, then understanding and planning for ongoing action. In Kolb's (1984) terms 'adult's learning interests are embedded in their personal histories, in their visions of who they are in the world and in what they can do and want to do'. In turn, this process is based on the view that learning (and knowledge and wisdom) can be gained through a cycle of concrete actions in the real world, observation of, and reflection on, those actions and the formulation of abstract concept or generalisations. In turn, these generalisations can lay the groundwork for further action based on the initial concrete action. 19


The application of Action Learning is particularly relevant for fuzzy problems, systemic issues and complex situations. This is especially the case if no one knows the solution or way out of a situation. In such situations the challenge is not whether to, but rather where and how to, start organising development action. In this sense Action Learning can assist the community to take one small action to improve operational opportunities, then reflect on it and plan the next step to improve the situation even further. Action Learning, as applied in this context, is about communities entering a cycle of taking actions to improve their effectiveness and then reflecting on the efficaciousness of this action with a view to learning from the past and seeking to improve it in the future. This cycle then has four moments or quadrants as if one is moving around a circle, namely: → Act [doing] => Observe (inc. recording) => Reflect [thinking] => Generalise (theorise). => Plan (intend and plan to act again) → Continue into another cycle → Act …... From this it is clear that acting, observing and reflecting, generalising and planning are linked in the one cycle, with no specific starting point, and are not separate from each other, as in most conventional learning methods. Action Learning is iterative, that is, it relies on continuously repeating the learning cycle. Understanding, making and using Biochar is dependent on many small steps and actions (that is, smaller action learning cycles) being undertaken by your Learning Circle and throughout the community, building improvements from the base up. It is also part of your action learning circles that we look at the Big Biochar Picture – a global view or Global Problematic as it is called and see how Biochar can assist. People generally exhibit a preference for a particular starting point in an ‘action learning circle cycle’, that is, they have a preferred ‘learning style’. Some people want to get in and do, others to plan, still others to think up abstract concepts, some to observe and reflect and carefully check things out. All these aspect are equally important and contribute equally to the end point 20


of the action. In developing these learning circle topics we have attempted to cater to the full range of preferred ‘learning styles’. There are many tools available to assist participants to understand their learning style. A search of the internet under the term ‘Learning Styles’ will reveal a range of these. It can be useful for participants to understand which approach they prefer.

[5] About learning circles A learning circle can develop, over time, as a community of practice - a process where people support each other to reflect, develop clarity to take initiatives and nurture others who seek to do the same. An action learning circle then extends this to taking action and learning from the outcomes thereof. It is useful if membership of Learning Circles is intentionally diverse; that is, people from all ages and walks of life benefit greatly from thinking and learning together. When the learning circle is diverse, new solutions and new friendships are possible. The following information regarding the conduct of a learning circle has been largely drawn from Adult Learning Australia’s ABC to Learning Circles, see Crombie (1999). Though somewhat dated this is the best overview we have come across. This is a comprehensive guide to organising, facilitating and participating in learning circles. What is a learning circle? In short a learning circle is a group process involving 5 to 15 people (I have found 8-12 to be the optimum) who meet to discuss and learn about a topic of interest to them and their community. The learning circle is designed to lead your group through developmental process to take sustainable Biochar development actions. Generally the meetings are 2 hours each (3 hours if a meal is included). These are held weekly for a study circle, and fortnightly for a learning circle, where actions/homework are undertaken in the interim week. Generally Learning Circles are thought of in terms of around 5 topics over as many meetings in no more than 3 months. This cycle can then be started over again for a different circle. 21


Essentially learning circles are self-managed and group-directed learning processes that do not require specific outside expertise. Participants draw on their own and other members experience, and draw in outside information as required or desired. The information provided with each topic will be helpful in this regard. Organising a learning circle As the initiator or organiser, you will be able to see how holding a learning circle can be a good way for its members to enact eco-social change at the local level in a practical way that is personally beneficial and yet is also globally relevant. Membership can be yourself, your family, community, or environmental type NGO’s you are involved with. As you can see a learning circle can have several topics for its particular focus, in this instance Biochar. The learning circle will now need to be promoted to particular people depending on the focus you choose, and perhaps your community at large, so that others who could be interested can become involved. It doesn’t matter where the members for your learning circle come from as long as they are keen, a cross section of your community and around 10 in number. There will be a number of tasks that need to be organised including:    

Registering participants, making sure name labels are available, if needed Determining any costs and how they’ll be met Locating a venue Ensuring that all participants receive any materials necessary and understand the process they will be involved with during the social interaction of and the practical aspects of the topic Making sure that the learning circle is provisioned with any resources it needs, for example, paper, pens, markers, masking tape, audiovisual facilities, etc.

Facilitating learning circles Learning Circle topics are best guided by a facilitator, drawn either from 22


within the group or from outside as appropriate. The facilitator role could also be rotated for each meeting if desired. The facilitator is not a ‘chair’ of the meeting nor is it someone with particular expertise on the subject but has the role of keeping the circle process moving and on track. So that if all goes well the facilitator is hardly heard from. To start with it could be helpful to find someone with experience as a group leader or who is a skilled facilitator. The role of a facilitator involves: •

Setting up, including making sure that everyone has a copy of the learning circle topic to read inc. actions to be undertaken

Encourage at least one person to be the group scribe and record outcomes for the Evaluation section

Have this Record available for each person at each meeting

Helping the group set its objectives and ground rules for the operation of the circle inc. its own direction

Maintain a comfortable impartial atmosphere

Ensuring that all participants have been introduced to each other

Encouraging everyone’s contribution through active listening, discussion and dialogue within the group, while discouraging dominating contributions

Taking account of learning styles of participants where this is needed moving the group on when it becomes stuck while also helping participants work through any conflict constructively

Discouraging any tendency for the facilitator to be treated as an expert

Summarising where the group is up to, from time to time while asking, and encouraging the asking of, questions that are open ended and encourage discussion 23


Helping the group to stay on time, and take appropriate breaks

Closing the session by ensuring that everyone has a turn to make a final statement and reminding participants about any follow up that has been decided on

Ensuring that the participants have evaluated the learning circle and that this information is returned as appropriate.

Participating in a learning circle This will involve: •

Participating in the meetings within the ground rules inc. doing the reading for the meetings and actions between meetings

Listening to the other participants, and trying to understand their viewpoint,

Helping the discussion stay on track while retaining an open, yet focused, mind

Speaking freely without dominating the discussion

Addressing all comments and discussion points to the whole group

Asking questions particularly of quieter group members, and also particularly if you don’t understand something

Being prepared to disagree without being aggressive, being prepared to work through the differing perspectives, or agree to disagree, as appropriate

Offering a helping hand, for example, with finding resource materials, preparing refreshments and cleaning up, taking a turn to facilitate, etc.

Arranging for the keeping of any necessary records

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Overall we have found that participants require an attitude of commitment: for instance shown by prioritising your involvement in your Biochar Action Circle Program so all of the above get addressed within and between each meeting and that you attend each meeting. Often 2-3hrs per meeting with 2-3hrs of reading and or actions between meetings of which there are generally 5-6hours per fortnight spread over a maximum of 3 months. Scheduling your learning circle topics and meetings The amount of time you and your group will need for each topic will vary, but some topics may take up to six hours or more to give sufficient time for carefully considering the content and actions. The length of time needed will also vary with the amount of preparation participants undertake. Where appropriate, each Topic Guide provides suggestions on preparation, where it is harder for people to get together (through traveling distance, etc.), working through a topic could be done as a one-day activity with follow-up through other mediums including email, skype and phone contact, and if this is not possible then by email with photos etc. Conducting learning circle meetings It is suggested that each session needs to start with a welcome, especially to any new members; followed by a review of the previous meeting; and with members clarifying the aim of the present meeting. It is useful for someone to record the key decisions (it is generally not necessary to take detailed minutes). The facilitator can then guide the group through the chosen Topic Guide and its activities. Generally a period of 2 hours at least is necessary to enable effective outcomes, reserving a 10 minute session at the end of your circle meeting for summing, reflecting on the circle process, making decisions about upcoming actions is important as well as materials, facilitator, location and time of the next meeting need to be established. Expressing the outcomes from your action learning circle Obtaining results from your Biochar actions, like anything worthwhile, will take time and persistence. You and your learning circle group will need to allow yourself and your circle time for the results from your actions to start to 25


come in. An ongoing commitment over a longer term (at least 3 months beyond the time required for working through the topics) may well enable more consistent outcomes. To help this along you may like to consider forming, or joining, a Biochar organisation or network especially, if one doesn’t already exist in your community. Making a longer term commitment will allow your learning circle group to take the necessary action learning steps to continue the development of Biochar in your family, community, NGO or business. Spreading the word about Biochar by expressing the outcomes of your Biochar Action Learning Circle process can take many forms including: •

Personal use and demonstration thereof to family and friends

Community discussion groups about Biochar and its links to local issues then national issues and their links to global issues

Civic activities, such as petitions, civic juries to give opinions to council/ors, listening posts on Biochar and its potential

Community festivities, celebrations and cultural events. Such activities can include street theatre, music festivals, celebrating the season, ‘blessing the Biochar assisted harvest’, tools etc.

‘Community animation and theatre’ around Biochar as a ‘community hearth’

• Multimedia production such as video, webpages, DVD-ROMs and social media. The intention is that the outcome will encourage active participation on the part of learning circle as well as spreading the word to other community members.

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[6] Where to from here? Choose your topic Each Topic Guide also provides some guidance about the next step to take. Overall topic: Biochar. Overall resource summary: See your Biochar reference book (The Biochar Revolution). And in particular ‘How the Book is Organised’: pgs x-xii. Select your Topic starting question on Biochar (left hand column) and the Topic that addresses this question is (middle column): Starter Question What are its origins?

See Topic (T): (T) Understanding Biochar

Do you want to understand what happens when you make Biochar?

(T) Understanding Biochar

Put your char to the test

(T) Understanding Biochar

Do you want to have a go at building your own TLUD Biochar retort/kiln? How can we design our community Biochar Retort/kiln & overall process? Do you want development that is also ‘sustainable’ & how to change the world through Biochar? Do you want to understand Biochar as a part of a whole eco system? How can we make sure that any Biochar actions we take are environmentally

(T) Building your own Biochar retort/kiln

Further Resources (The Biochar Revolution) See Ch1: Biochar Ancient Origins, Modern Solutions: pgs 2-14 Ch 2: Making a Difference with Biochar: pgs 27-30 Section above ‘About Biochar’ See Ch 10: Biochar Production: pgs 135-142; Ch 6 What is Biochar See Ch 7 on How Biochar helps the soil: pg81 Does ‘bigger is better’ apply to Biochar: pg 43 Section above ‘About Biochar’ http://Biocharproject.org/tutorial/ See Ch 8: Characterising Biochars: esp. pg 91 Ch 8: pgs 91-110. Testing Biochar for: Moisture, Ash; Labile matter, Resident matter See Ch 11: Making Biochar in Small Cookstoves & Heaters: pgs 153-182 http://Biocharproject.org/tutorial/videos/

(T) Building your own Biochar retort/kiln

See Ch 11: Making Biochar in Small Cookstoves & Heaters: pgs 153-182 http://Biocharproject.org/tutorial/videos/

(T) EcoChar

See Ch 17: The Greener Revolution Small Scale Biochar Distributed Field Assessments pg 310 & via. Action Learning Circles (this document)

(T) EcoChar

See pgs x & xii ‘How the Book is organised’

(T) EcoChar

See Ch 17: The Greener Revolution Biochar & Solar Power pgs 322-4

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sustainable? Are we considering a broader range of issues regarding sustaining our Biochar actions? Do you want to find out how to start to see Biochar as an income generator for you? Based on our intelligence gathering about our community Biochar at present, what opportunities for action are available? Coming to Biochar – a humourous look Can I eat Biochar? Go light a Match & feed yourself Biochar!! What is the latest Biochar News?

(T) EcoChar & (T) Understanding Community Biochar Development

See Ch 17: The Greener Revolution & Climate Change Ch 1. Community Carbon Credit Currency CCCC: pgs 289, 294 http://Biocharproject.org/tutorial/

(T) Right Livelihood

See Ch2: Biochar from the Ground Up: pgs 19-30 http://Biocharproject.org/products-page/ Biochar Opportunity: pg 276 See: Ch 4: From Blacksmith to Biochar & Ch 17: The Greener Revolution

(T) Right Livelihood

Biochar chuckles

See Ch 3: On the Farm: pgs 31-44

(T) Unlocking the potential of Biochar

See Ch10 on Biochar Production: pgs 133138 Ch 8: pgs 91-110. Testing Biochar for: moisture, ash; labile matter, resident matter http://Biocharbooks.com/The_Biochar_Revolution http://Biocharproject.org/news/

Newsletter of the Biochar Project

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Use the action learning outcomes from your learning circle in your and your community’s everyday life. While working in your learning circle it will be useful to have your further steps, that is, longer-term goals in mind. The outcomes of your learning circle can be used in a variety of ways. These could include: •

Implementing individual and group formal and informal Biochar activities, chat-faces and swap-meets

Developing business plans and seeking resources, for example, loans, grants and in-kind support to develop formal and informal enterprises

A community Biochar initiative and associated employment, learning and training plans e.g. including carbon credits

A strategic link or community compact with your Local Government Authority about what the community would like to see in terms of Biochar production and use by Council

Linking to Adult and Community Education organisation, TAFE, Registered Training Organisation (RTO), or University in regard to extending the Action Learning or Biochar components of the project

Liaising with other communities, for example, by using email bulletin boards or through your projects web link and social media to spread your word, tell your story, set up a eLearning Circle or help other communities here and overseas who are looking to do a similar project. Share your project story on https://ala.asn.au/

Spreading the Biochar word in your community through public speaking appointments, short good news stories and articles in your local paper

Facilitating the creation of another learning circle and the facilitation of a learning circle. 29


Engage other Biochar institutions with your action learning circle When you are considering or working through the learning circle topics it is important that you also have in mind some ways to integrate your work into your local community. This will help maximise the benefits of and leverage the work you do. Some suggestions for how this can be achieved are: •

A Local Government Authority can use your Learning Circle group as sort of focus group to gain insight to community desires for Biochar,

Regional Development Organisations can use your Learning Circle as a direct community interface to bounce development ideas around and vice versa,

Your Action Learning Circle can serve to assist the implementation of the eco and social ventures and enterprises, inc. possibly your own and gain prominence in relation the requirements of local institutions including Banks, Businesses and NGO’s

The projects from your action learning circle can provide avenues for volunteer work, equipment donations and other ‘in-kind’ support as part of 'corporate social responsibility' for banks, local businesses, large corporations and Government Departments.

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[7] (Y)our Biochar: action learning circle 3-way evaluation [1] Peer evaluation: Here we as organisers and peers give feedback to you on your project achievements and circle learning’s. This also includes an element of peer evaluation by your fellow circle participants. The principal aim here is to help you help yourself, us and others improve our understanding of how to learn about Biochar. NB: You will need to take the Biochar Action Learning Circle most seriously, as we three do, and we love to have serious fun in doing so. This does mean we work hard at our tasks, actions and circle meetings, ask heaps of questions, challenge positions and actions where needed, innovate change and adapt (y)our learning’s in and out of your circle, support other participants and generally act ethically with integrity and authenticity in and out of the circle.

[2] Your learning circles evaluation: Here your learning circle will evaluate your contribution and your project. You will also be able to seek peer evaluation and feedback that is by and through your learning circle. NB: See [1] above. [3] Your evaluation of your learning circle: In order to gauge the effectiveness of this Action Learning Circle kit the following evaluation information is important for us to collect. Please return your response to paul@kalgrove.com . •

Your groups’ location

Main organiser, facilitator or contact person, phone, email and address

Age range of your group

Gender composition of your group

What did your group expect from this learning circle?

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Did the introductory information (booklet) help you and your group to understand what expectations the learning circle could meet and how? Please explain.

Did the Topics integrate with the text book? If not how could this be improved please?

What topics from the whole kit worked best for your group and why?

What topics worked least well for your group and why?

What has been the outcome for your group?

What would you like to see improved?

What areas could be expanded?

Please include some comments from group members.

Thank you for completing this evaluation. Please return the evaluation to the publisher, The Kalgrove Institute. PO 73 Northgate, Brisbane 4014, ph +61 7 32667570, email: paul@kalgrove.com

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[8] References and further reading Web sites (accessed Q1 2011) http://sites.google.com/site/reversinggreenhouse/ reversing Greenhouse through Biochar – Wayne Wadsworth (Wadzy). http://Biochar-books.com/The_Biochar_Revolution The Biochar Revolution – Paul Taylor. http://studycircles.net.au/ Study/Learning Circles in Australia – Mark Brophy – a sub section of Adult Learning Australia. http://Biocharproject.org/ more on the Biochar project site associated with this learning circle – Charmaster Dolph Cooke http://www.kalgrove.com/adultlearning/ heaps on Adult Learning inc. Learning Circles, Bush Mechanics and more – Paul Wildman http://sites.google.com/site/reversinggreenhouse/ Wayne Wadsworth on carbon capture Text Crombie, A. (1999). The ABC to Learning Circles. Jamison Centre, ACT: Adult Learning Australia. Glenn, J. (2007). Future Possibilities for Education and Learning by the Year 2030. Washington DC: The Millennium Project. www.StateOfTheFuture.org .137pgs. Glenn, J. and T. Gordon (2010). 2010 State of the Future. Washington, DC, World Federation of UN Associations (WFUNA). 100pgs with DVD. Kolb, D. (1984). Experimental Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Prentice Hall. Adult Learning Australia. (2002). Learning Circles. www.ala.asn.au Study Circles Resource Centre (2002): www.studycircles.org/ 33


Moxam, G and J. Davis. J. (2010). The Solar Biochar Seminar at The Castle on the Hill Learning Centre. Series Editor: I. Brown. Uki, The Science Art Research Centre of Australia. Davis - solar presentation, Moxam - Biochar. DVD 2 hours. Taylor, P., Ed. (2010). The Biochar Revolution: Transforming Agriculture and Environment. Australia: Global Publishing Group. 364pgs. Wildman, P. (2009). Local Economic Self Sufficiency, from conference Self Sufficiency - How and Why. Organiser/editor I. Brown. Uki NSW: Science Art Research Centre Australia. DVD. 1hr. Wildman, P. (2011). BioChar Action Learning Circles: toward a future Nature can live with. Action Learning Circles based on Paul Taylor's The BioChar Revolution book (2010). P. Wildman. Brisbane: The Kalgrove Institute, with Topic Guides - 40pgs. Wildman, P. (2011). Local Economic Self-Sufficiency - a role for Biochar? Biochar Conference. Science Art Research Centre Uki NSW. The Kalgrove Institute: Brisbane. PowerPoint show. 35slides. Wildman, P. and H. Schwencke (2003). Your Community Learning - action learning circles for learning and earning through community economic development. Brisbane: Prosperity Press and Life Long Learning Council of Qld (then Community Learning Initiatives). Multi Media CD Rom with booklet explaining action learning and including cross walk between community development questions and ALC topics integrated through Community Development Actions.

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The Biochar Action Learning Circle Manual  

This is the official world first Biochar Action Learning Circle manual